Shop Home Goods Like a Pro in 10 Easy Steps

It's wonderful having clients who can afford custom or to the trade only carpets, lighting, and pillows.  How I love to shop for one of a kind antique and vintage mirrors and accessories or scour the galleries looking for original art to really bring a client's room to life!  However, there are times when a project doesn't warrant that level of expense, like when you are staging a house for sale, or you are furnishing your daughter's off campus apartment or dorm room, or you simply don't have the funds for an Arch Digest level project.  These are the times that call for a Home Goods shop.

You 'd be surprised how many designers I spot there hunting down bargains.  You can immediately tell who they are because they do not have that "lost deer in the headlights" look about them.  Rather, they approach the hunt with steely determination, moving with speed through the store eyes scanning back and forth, adrenaline coursing through their veins.  Arms move in and out, quickly and confidently moving items from shelf to cart.  They are the ones often with several carts filled to the brim, barking orders to an assistant. "Grab that acrylic z chair before someone else gets it!"  "Yes yes yes, these mirrors look just like the Oly Studio Andre mirrors at a quarter of the price.  Lets take 3!" and "Do you see that lamp?  The base is marble and the shade is too die for!  And look at the price!" Giddy with excitement, they act as if they are kids in a candy store.  I know because I am one of them! 

Often when I am finished, my kill (okay, finds) piled up high in my cart, another shopper ( giving my cart the once over with her eyes) asks, "Are you a designer?  How on earth did you find all those beautiful things?  I have been wandering around for an hour and all I found was a candle. How do you do it?"   So here are 10 steps to shopping HomeGoods like a pro:

1. Prepare Prepare Prepare!

If you have a particular room in your house that you would like to improve, spend some time looking at photos on or House Beautiful, Elle Decor, or your favorite shelter magazine.  Check out interior design blogs on Bloglovin'.com and search for keywords that apply to your project like living room, cottage decor, beach houses etc... You can also look on Instagram for inspiration by searching applicable hashtags.  You can start a board on with things that catch your eye.  The idea is to get a real sense of the look you are going for in your room and also to train your eye to notice details like finishes for lighting, shapes of lampshades, and the scale of things in the room that are striking.  You can even create an online mood board to help you keep everything in one place.  You can refer to this while you are in the store to keep yourself on track.

2. Determine your Color Palette.

Before you even think about shopping, go to the paint store and pick up a fan deck or just take a lot of the free paint swatches.  Then start to pull out colors that you love.  Do they look good together?  Try to pull out three colors that you love together and make that the palette you will be working with.  Take these swatches with you to the store.

3. Make a List.  

Write down everything you will need in your room- along with dimensions!  Refer to this list after you park the car and before you get out.  Say the items out loud to yourself to really get it into your head.  You are on a mission now.  You have a reason for shopping and time is money. And you can be confident that you will not forget a key item which will require a second trip. 

4. Circle the Store Like a Hunter Encircling its Prey.

You want to get a quick overview of everything there.  Don't stop for a closer look or touch.  Keep moving and just do a broad sweep with your eyes and make a mental note of areas you want to come back to to because there are interesting things that meet your criteria.

4. Start in the Back of the Store First.

I begin with rugs.  Then move to lamps.  Then to mirrors, accent tables and furniture.  I start here in order to avoid getting caught up in pillows and chotzke with the deer in the headlights people, the hoarders, or simply the bored.  Besides, the most amazing finds are in the rugs, lamps and furniture areas so I want to get there before someone else snatches up the good stuff!  Here is a sampling of some fabulous finds from Friday's expedition:

This diamond patterned sisal is in a great color and is a classic.  I would snap this up in a heartbeat:

Here are two great looking lamps that caught my eye:

This coffee table is a lookalike for a very expensive piece and would work well in almost any style living room with it's pale oak frame and pretty mirrored top and sides:

And check out this darling little side table covered in faux shagreen and antique brass metal legs. A very high end designer look!:

Also loving this classic round table in gray and white:

5. Ask For Help.

Ask a  store associate to take large items on a flat cart to the front for you, or to hold a full cart for you at the register.  Use a second cart for pillows and accessories. Refer back to your paint swatches and pinterest or mood board on your phone as you shop to be sure you are staying on track.  Check off items from your list as you find them.  

6. Know the Pillow Rules.

When looking for pillows, I have a few rules.  Do not buy a pillow that doesn't have a down insert.  I don't care how nice the color is, if it has a foam pillow inside, it will look tacky. Also, buy varying sizes.  For example, if you are getting pillows for a living room, be sure to get 2 large squares, 2 medium squares and a rectangle.  Also, get smaller pillows for your upholstered chairs. These can be square or rectangle.  Likewise, vary the patterns. Get one large scale pattern, a small print, and a strip or solid.  Or go with all solids for a peaceful sophisticated look.  Make sure they work with your color palette.  Look for a throw or two that works with the pillows.  I love this elephant cotton print in black and white.  Very John Robshaw!


7.  Choose Art Carefully.

You can find decent large giclées and also sometimes nicely framed prints at HomeGoods.  I don't recommend overdoing it with this kind of art but if you need something large, HomeGoods is a good resource.  Also, consider using mirrors, architectural pieces like fragments, tin medallions, huge wall clocks or graphic prints where you need something large. 

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8. Stick to Your List (Unless You Find Something Amazing...).

One of the fun things about going to HomeGoods is that you never know what you will find. I have found incredible hide rugs, a bleached braided jute rug, lucite waterfall consoles, gold moroccan leather poofs, tractor seat counter stools for 1/3 of what they cost normally and more... If you see something incredible at a fraction of what you know it normally would cost, be open to buying it if you think you could use it or sell it to a friend! 

These chairs are a ringer for Wassily Chrome leather Mid Century chairs and are a fraction of the price:

And check out this cute outdoor set with the sweet Serena and Lily- esque cafe chairs. Not on my list but too good to pass up at this price!

9. Look Over Your Haul Again.

When you are finished, look over everything.  Make sure it all works together and you love every single piece.  Then check for scratches, marks or any damage.  Often they will further discount things unless its already marked "as is".  If you aren't sure about something, take it out and tell the cashier you changed your mind about it.  Sometimes, things that you found early in the expedition have to be sacrificed if you found a really fabulous thing later on. 

10. Load it Up and Move Out.

Leave your carts at the front and bring your car around.  They will help you load everything into your car.  For large items that won't fit, ask for the name and number of their delivery guy.  Leave the big things there for him to pick up and deliver.  Pat yourself on the back and smile at all the great things you found and feel good about all the money you saved!  

Happy hunting!